Since we don't have a futbol-reference blog, and with the World Cup starting in two days, I thought I would throw in some World Cup thoughts. I have done a fair amount of research on home field advantage in the NFL, particularly as it relates to climate and road team familiarity. I was interested in the data for the World Cup, particularly since this year will be played in Africa for the first time. As the World Cup is played only every four years, and only 32 countries even play in the Finals (only 16 as recently as 1978), there is not a whole lot of data out there. Still, the data that does exist suggests that countries playing in their home region enjoy a significant boost in the tournament.
Here is a summary of the performance of European countries versus non-European countries in all World Cups played since World War II, sorted by year, with the host country and continent listed. (Note: for knockout rounds, wins in extra time are counted as wins, while matches that went to a penalty kick shootout are counted as ties)
European teams have won 68.1% (with draws counting as half wins) of their matches in World Cups played in Europe, but only 50.9% of matches in World Cups played on other continents. A World Cup was last played in the Southern Hemisphere in 1978, and European teams have a losing record in World Cups in South America (46.1%). In contrast, South American teams have won only 51.7% of their games played in Europe, compared to 66.3% in the three South American World Cups and 64.2% in other World Cups, primarily also played in the Western Hemisphere.
Of course, this World Cup is not played in either Europe or one of the traditional sites in North and South America. Eight years ago, when the tournament was played for the first time in Asia, we saw plenty of upsets. The tournament in South Africa raises more questions than there are answers when it comes to assessing who has the venue advantage, such as:
Will South American teams have any advantage because of the tournament being played in the Southern hemisphere, or will this be negated by time zone adjustments?
Will the European teams have less of a disadvantage than other non-European World Cups because of time zone similarities with South Africa, even though the seasons are opposite?
How much advantage will the five other African countries have, since none of them is contiguous to South Africa? Algeria is in the northern hemisphere and the other four are in the West Central Region, with the closest, Cameroon, still over 2,000 miles away from South Africa.
I don't know the answers to those questions, but generally, uncertainty favors the underdog and makes things a little more wild, so the one thing I am predicting is that you should go ahead and expect the unexpected this June.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 11:23 pm and is filed under World Cup. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.